If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s self-criticism. (That’s undoubtedly somebody else’s line, but it fits.)
In my last post, I wondered about what obvious-to-others thing I’m doing wrong as I raise my son. I fret a lot about being a bad parent. I’m a perfectionist anyway about things that are important to me, and flying solo has made me worry even more about making the inevitable billion mistakes. DB is disadvantaged already by having only one parent, I say to myself, and so I have to be extra good at my job to compensate. The problem, of course, is that it’s impossible. I can’t be two parents. As I continue to not measure up to my ideals, I just make myself more anxious and overwhelmed. And I turn this great gig – in which I get to spend a lot of time with a smart, personable kid – into drudgery for both of us.
So I’m taking a page from DB’s teachers’ playbook, and making myself a chart. Every time I make a parenting anti-mistake, I get a sticker. (Clearly this notion is overdue, if I don’t even know what to CALL it when I do something right.) When I fill the chart, I get to pick out a treat. The point of the chart isn’t to encourage good behavior, as it was for DB’s rhymes-with-hottie chart, but rather to notice the times I get it right as a parent. In spite of what I seem to be fond of saying about myself, I could be worse at this job. Sometimes I set reasonable limits and stick to them, even when the resultant whining is really annoying. Sometimes I remember to pack snacks when we go out for a bike ride. Sometimes I expect DB to take age-appropriate responsibility for things. And I don’t stint on the affection.
“I’m patting you,” DB said to me, thumping me on the shoulder blade. “I’m patting you because you did a good thing.”
“Oh yes?” I replied. “What did I do?”
“You gave me a hug and a kiss. That was a good thing to do. Hooray for you!”
Hooray for me.